“Stupid in America”

Check your FoxNews lineup and set your DVR to record John Stossel’s recent education special, Stupid in America.  If you know when it will next air, let me know and I’ll provide an update.

It originally aired last weekend.  I watched it tonight.  It’s worth watching.  He covers teachers unions, union bosses, firing teachers, the Washington DC school district, charter schools and Khan Academy.

In an interview, one union boss, who represented a district with bad student test scores, assured us that he knows his kids are learning because “he can see it in their eyes.”  Now that’s compelling stuff.  I certainly think there are numerous issues with test scores as a measure of teacher performance, but I much prefer those over what this man sees in his students eyes.

This same union leader defended bad teachers from being fired (I’m paraphrasing): It would be a tremendous cost and a major adjustment for the teacher. We need to seek professional development opportunities for that teacher.

lol?  I did.

I find it strange that we should have to train teachers to be teachers (isn’t that what they were supposed to do before they became a teacher?) to prevent them from not being a teacher. I also find it strange how a trade that’s based so strictly on credentialing (e.g. education certification), would then want to take on the expense of the training the teacher what he or she apparently didn’t learn before.  With that logic, why require credentials at all?  Just let anyone come in and they will be trained.

Of course, this union boss believes training will be the antidote.  What if the teacher doesn’t want to teach?  Why not free up the spot for someone who does?

Another union boss proclaimed that he would try to physically prevent people from going to charter schools in “our” (meaning teacher union) buildings.  Excuse me, aren’t those the taxpayers’ buildings? I didn’t realize that the teachers union now owns their buildings as well.

As Stossel so aptly put it in the show, much of what is wrong with education is that we have “adult fools” running things.

Stossel also showed lots of signs of progress education.

  • Charter schools where the kids love to come and learn.
  • Kids digging math because they’re watching Salman Khan videos.
  • Teachers in charter schools that say things like (paraphrasing again), why shouldn’t they be able to fire me?  If I was a bad doctor, I wouldn’t have any patients.
  • A charter school where the principal actively watches and coaches her teachers to improve their teaching (many businesses can learn from this).
  • A post-Katrina, charter school-based rebirth of education in New Orleans.  One founder of the Sci Academy started with just himself in 2008 and now has a “school” based in trailers and his students are testing well.  He said, if you hear someone in education talking about having top notch facilities, that’s a sign they’re not putting education first.
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Boudreaux Addresses Trump

On November 4, I sent the following e-mail to Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek and George Mason University requesting he address Donald Trump’s bad economics.

Hi Don,

I just returned to my hotel room, flipped on FoxNews and saw Donald Trump on Greta Van Susteren’s show talking foreign trade.  I think he covered just about every foreign trade myth in a short span.  “We don’t make anything here anymore, just health care.”  “They shut down a plant in Iowa and moved the jobs Mexico.  We need those jobs.”  “Put a tax on Chinese imports.” He also seemed a little fuzzy about government’s role in creating jobs, which is strange coming from a guy who manages to create lot of jobs without the government.

Here’s a link to the video: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/on-the-record/index.html

It’d be nice to see a Boudreaux letter setting Trump straight.

The link no longer points to the Trump video.

While I didn’t get a response from Boudreaux, it was nice to see him address at least one of Trump’s foreign trade myths as he did in this letter in response to a Newsmax story.

After retrieving this e-mail from my sent messages folder, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was coherent, considering I was in Vegas and blitzed at the time that I wrote it.

Here’s some feedback for Greta.  When you have folks like Trump or Buffett on who talk economics, don’t assume they know what they’re talking about just because they are successful business people.  Get a second opinion.

Advice for any news reporter who encounters a guest discussing foreign trade including Greta:

Do your viewers a service and call Don Boudreaux of George Mason University to get his view on their comments.  Boudreaux can point trade out myths and articulate why, though many sound good on the surface, they can be damaging.

Advice to Donald Trump:

Have lunch with Don Boudreaux.  He will help you understand why your trade myths are myths and help you find ways to articulate the truth in politically palatable manners.  And please do so before more people mistake your business success as a valid merit of your knowledge on foreign trade and you end up hurting more of the very people you may think you are trying to help.

Jobs and Unemployment Benefits

I highly recommend John Stossel’s excellent one-hour special from Saturday evening on the FoxNews Channel.

The focus of one of Stossel’s segments was the incentives around unemployment benefits.  He interviewed people who said they passed up jobs because the jobs paid less than they made on unemployment and they became more serious about looking at such jobs within a few weeks of their unemployment running out.

He also interviewed people who worked for the agency in charge of tracking the unemployed to ensure they were looking for work.  They said they could tell that some applicants didn’t take some jobs seriously.  They were interviewing in order to check the box to satisfy their requirement to keep receiving unemployment.

Stossel included footage of our President saying that he hasn’t met a single American that would rather collect an unemployment check  than have meaningful work to provide for their family.  Given Stossel’s evidence, it makes me wonder how hard the President looked or what questions he asked when he did look.

While watching the segment, the thought occurred to me that perhaps unemployment benefits should end once the person has been offered a job, even if the job pays less than the unemployment benefits.  Made me wonder what the true goals of unemployment are.  Is the goal to provide a safety net or to preserve a lifestyle that may not be preservable?

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

President Obama missed a chance to lead this week, as did many others who issued unilateral rebuking of Pastor Terry Jones highly publicized (thank you Main Stream Media) plans to burn a copy of the Quran.  All, including Obama buckled to threats against troops.  For example, Obama said this:

And as a very practical matter, I just want him [Pastor Terry Jones] to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform.

The problem, as I see it, is that the condemnation was one-sided.  Obama, and everyone else, was correct in condemning the plans to burn the Quran.  There’s no doubt about that.  Any attempt to spin this blog post into some sort of support for Jones’ plan would be a lie.

However, as a leader, Obama missed a prime opportunity to condemn the other wrong here.

While everybody agreed that Jones was a “nutcase”, including me, only two people I know of expressed any concern about the other wrong here: about a group of people threatening violence against U.S. troops in retaliation for Jones’ actions.  That would be myself and Tawfik Hamid writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Opinion Journal, A Muslim Response to Quran Burning and referring to the Quran.  Hamid’s first two paragraphs:

It’s unclear whether or not the Rev. Terry Jones will go ahead with his highly publicized Quran burning this evening in Florida. But Muslims can play a major role in preventing a violent response to any burnings of their holy book.

Islamic scholars can emphasize that the Quran clearly teaches that no one can be punished on account of the actions of others (surra 6, verse 164). In other words, it is against the value system of the Quran to punish Americans or Christians because of the acts of a small minority.

If I were President, I might have been inclined to say something like:

I, along with most Americans, condemn what one pastor in Florida plans to do.  It’s disgraceful.  However, we will hold the appropriate parties accountable for acts of violence against our troops or citizens.  To be clear, the appropriate parties will be those who commit such violence.  We encourage you to protest the pastor’s actions peacefully.

Instead, Obama continued his enlightened rationalization (from the same news story as the first Obama quote):

Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaida. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The president also said Jones’ plan, if carried out, could serve as an incentive for terrorist-minded individuals “to blow themselves up” to kill others.

For those threatening violence, this is a victory.  They pushed and we folded.  Lesson learned.  Already the tactic is being employed to justify keeping the plans to build the mosque near Ground Zero.  From this story, three days ago:

The imam behind a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero cautioned Wednesday that moving the facility could cause a violent backlash from Muslim extremists and endanger national security.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told CNN that the discourse surrounding the center has become so politicized that moving it could strengthen the ability of extremists abroad to recruit and wage attacks against Americans, including troops fighting in the Middle East.

I find the similarities between Obama’s second quote and Imam Rauf’s message striking.  It’s as if Imam Rauf had just read Obama’s remarks and they were still fresh in his mind.

Devil’s Midnight

Redeye is what goes on at Devil’s Midnight on the Fox News channel.

Hosted by Greg Gutfeld, the show seems to be a conservative Daily Show/Chelsea Lately.    I heard about this short Greg-A-Logue on a Dennis Miller show podcast.  The Greg-a-logue discusses on a recent poll that showed 36% of Americans view socialism favorably.

I liked one of the examples given in this video about Socialism.  It went something like:

We need to teach our kids about socialism.  When your kids mow your lawn for $10, don’t give him the $10.  Tell him instead that he needs to share it with the deserving kids down the street.

I would add: Then ask him when he plans to the mow the lawn next time?

I’ve always thought a major disadvantage of conservatism is that it doesn’t win sound byte arguments.   I appreciate creative attempts like this to pack our side of the argument into effective sound bytes.

I’ve had some luck in the past with this.  For example, try this on someone who is against school vouchers: Why do you want to limit choice of the poor?